Pregnancy is nine months of big changes for you and your body, some are wonderful and awe-inspiring, such as quickening others, such as morning sickness, are a little harder to, stomach. But each of these pregnancy symptoms is necessary and plays an integral part in making sure you and your baby are healthy and thriving. So if pregnancy symptoms are getting you down, just remember they’re all just side effects of growing new life.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms
How can you tell if you’re pregnant? Many women experience pregnancy symptoms almost immediately after conception, others won’t notice any for a few weeks and a few feel no discomfort at all. Some of the most common pregnancy symptoms associated with the first stages of pregnancy are very similar to those you may often experience right before menstruating. So similar, in fact, that you may not even notice these symptoms until after you’ve missed a period.
If you have any or a number of the following pregnancy symptoms and you think there is a chance you might be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test and find out for sure!
One of the most noticeable signs of early pregnancy is tender, swollen, sore or sensitive breasts. Due to the rapidly increasing amount of the hCG hormone in your system, your areolas (the area of skin around your nipples) may start to enlarge or darken in color. This extra sensitivity in your breasts usually starts around 4 to 6 weeks after conception and lasts through the first trimester.
It may be just the beginning of your pregnancy, but your body is already going through intense hormonal changes. Your hCG level alone goes from zero to 250,000 mIU/ml in just twelve weeks! If you’re finding it harder and harder to stay awake at work, or you still feel tired after a good night’s sleep, your body may be pregnant. Try to get at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night, take frequent 15 to 30-minute naps during the day and hang in there! You should have most of your energy back by the start of the second trimester.
Nausea and vomiting
While most women won’t experience it until a month or so after conception, nausea and vomiting may come as early as one week into your pregnancy. “Morning sickness” can strike at any time of day, so don’t let the name fool you! Some women feel nauseous upon getting out of bed in the morning and feel better as the day goes on, others feel sick all day long and a lucky few don’t experience it at all. Although quite common, there is no known cause or cure for morning sickness. Frequent snacking and small meals throughout the day should bring you some relief. Morning sickness generally improves by the 13th or 14th week of pregnancy, but some women continue to feel queasy from time to time well into the second trimester.
If you’re pregnant, you’ll probably notice you are taking more frequent trips to the ladies room. This recurring need to pee is one of the most common symptoms of early pregnancy. One reason for this is because your uterus is swelling to make room for your baby, putting more pressure on your bladder. Also during pregnancy, the amount of blood circulating through your body increases, causing extra fluids to be processed by your kidneys and bladder, which means more bathroom breaks. Unfortunately, this symptom often lasts all nine months.
Spotting, or implantation bleeding, is caused when a fertilized egg begins to embed itself into the endometrial lining of your uterus. This light bleeding (it only lasts for a day or two) is sometimes mistaken for a menstrual period and may occur anywhere from 6 to 12 days after conception. Because not all women experience spotting, it is not considered one of the most common symptoms of early pregnancy.
Food cravings or aversions
From the very beginning of your pregnancy, you may crave food combinations that would repulse someone who isn’t pregnant, like pickles and ice cream. But while stories of food cravings are often humorous and may be discussed more than food aversions, both are equally common. Foods you previously found appetizing may start to totally repulse you. For some women, this symptom comes and goes, while others will experience it throughout pregnancy.
Sensitivity to smell
Much like your changing reactions to foods, it is not uncommon during early pregnancy to experience an increased sensitivity to certain odors. Even aromas you used to enjoy, such as the smell of cookies baking in the oven or the scent of your favorite perfume, may now trigger your gag reflex. This sensitivity to smell is thought to be a side effect of all the estrogen running through your body.
Irritability and mood swings
When you take raging hormones and mix them in with all the other symptoms of pregnancy, it can only be expected that you’ll be irritable and moody. Physical discomfort, hormonal changes and anxiety about the future may all contribute to sudden changes in your mood. Expect to experience emotional fluctuations during your entire pregnancy, even though they are generally more prevalent during the first trimester and in the weeks before delivery. Getting moderate exercise, maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep will help keep your emotions under control.
Dizziness or fainting
While the likelihood of fainting is low, approximately one in 20 pregnant women will experience some form of lightheadedness or dizziness. During pregnancy, your blood vessels dilate dramatically, and in the first trimester, your blood volume may not have expanded enough to fill all of this space, resulting in lower blood pressure that may cause you to feel extremely lightheaded. Skipping meals and allowing your blood sugar level to drop may also cause you to feel dizzy or faint. Because blood sugar is the primary source of food for your baby, it will decrease much faster during pregnancy, so don’t go too long without eating!
Heartburn and Constipation
Of all the symptoms experienced by newly pregnant women, heartburn and constipation might be the worst! These uncomfortable conditions occur for two reasons. Pregnancy hormones slow down digestion in order for your body to absorb as many vitamins, minerals and nutrients as possible from the food you eat. The slower digestion may cause extra stomach acid to be released to aid digestion, leading to a feeling of heartburn. In later trimesters, heartburn and constipation can also be caused by your expanding uterus pushing against your stomach and other organs. Your doctor may recommend a pre-natal vitamin with digestive enzymes (from pineapple and papaya fruits) to help with this symptom. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruits and veggies to ease heartburn and constipation.
A missed period
Perhaps the most obvious sign of early pregnancy is a missed period. If you’re usually pretty regular and your period hasn’t arrived on time, this may be what motivates you to look for the other early symptoms of pregnancy. Although it’s hard to wait, you shouldn’t take a home pregnancy test until 2 or 3 days after your missed period to ensure it is as accurate as possible. If your result came out negative and your period still hasn’t arrived after a week, you should take another test.
Consistently high basal body temperature
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, your doctor may have suggested you check your basal body temperature (your temperature when you first wake up in the morning) every day. If you notice it’s consistently higher than usual for more than two weeks, something is definitely going on with your body. Take a home pregnancy test to find out if you’re expecting!
Approximately one percent of women will develop an itchy, raised rash in the last part of their pregnancy called PUPPP (pruritic uticarial pupules and placques of pregnancy), also known as polymorphic eruption of pregnancy. According to the American Academy of Dermatology it is the most common skin condition of pregnancy, usually appearing during the third trimester, and, although the discomfort and itching may keep you up at night, PUPPP is harmless to both you and your baby.
The cause of PUPPP is unknown and it is not associated with any other pregnancy condition, such as preeclampsia, or any abnormality of the fetus. It appears to run in families and, oddly, 70 percent of women with PUPPP give birth to boys. This correlation has given rise to the hypothesis that male fetal DNA acts as a skin irritant, but conclusive evidence is still needed.
PUPPP usually develops during a first pregnancy and appears first on the abdomen near the belly button (often in stretch marks) and then spreads to the thighs and extremities as the small, red wheals of the rash gradually merge to create larger wheals.
There is no cure for PUPPP, but the irritation usually can be relieved with cortisone creams, high strength steroid creams, or oral steroids if the itching is severe. The rash and the itching usually resolve a couple of days to a week after delivery.
Another harmless but potentially annoying pregnancy rash is called prurigo of pregnancy, or prurigo gestationis, which appears as many tiny bumps that look like bug bites, usually on the hands, feet, arms and legs, although they can develop anywhere on the body. Prurigo of pregnancy can occur any time during your pregnancy, but it is more common during the second half and affects about 1 in 300 pregnant women. Although there is no cure for the condition, the itching can be relieved with topical cortisone or antihistamines and the rash usually resolves soon after delivery.
Rarely, pregnant women develop itchy patches that initially look like hives, but then turn into large, blistering lesions. This is called pemphigoid gestationis or herpes gestationis (however, it is has nothing to do with the herpes virus) and occurs in 1 pregnancy out of 7,000 to 50,000. The rash usually begins on the abdomen, around the belly button, and may spread to the arms and legs. This condition may be associated with a greater risk of preterm delivery and fetal growth problems, and 5 percent of newborns born to women with this condition have a noticeable rash. While this condition usually starts in the third trimester, it can appear at any time, even shortly after delivery. Pemphigoid gestationis usually develops again in subsequent pregnancies and tends to be more severe.
PUPPP and Other Pregnancy Skin Conditions
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy is a potentially harmful pregnancy skin irritation that appears in the second or third trimester, usually on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. No rash develops, but the intense itching may cause you to scratch and result in red, irritated skin.
This condition affects up to 2 percent of pregnant women and occurs when bile secretion in the liver is impaired. As the bile backs up, bile acids increase in the bloodstream and are eventually deposited in the skin which causes the itching. Other symptoms include darkened urine and fatigue. If you suspect you have this condition, your doctor will perform blood tests to check your liver function and an ultrasound to monitor your baby’s health, as the condition is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth, premature labor, fetal distress, and maternal and fetal hemorrhaging. Depending on your and your baby’s health, you may be induced earlier than your due date. The condition resolves on its own after delivery; however, it may recur with later pregnancies.
To keep you and your baby safe, alert your caregiver immediately if you develop any sort of rash during your pregnancy.